South Africa return to winning ways

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29 Dec 2019 | 01:39 PM
authorPramod Ananth

South Africa return to winning ways

South Africa end 2019 on a positive note

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Despite of a resurgent 84 from Rory Burns and a gritty 48 from Joe Root, South Africa wrap up the first Test at Centurion by 107 runs to go 1-0 up in the four-match series. This win marks South Africa’s first win in six Tests. Kagiso Rabada was the star with the ball, finishing with four wickets and was well supported to by the other bowlers. Needing 275 runs more to win on Day Four with nine wickets in hand, the match was well in balance. 

South Africa’s persistence and patience finally paid off when Burns top-edged off Anrich Nortje went straight to Kagiso Rabada at mid-on for 84, adding just seven more to his overnight total. The match was still in balance with a well set Joe Denly at the crease and was joined by his skipper Joe Root. However, Denly too did not last long as he was trapped in front by Dwaine Pretorius. England would have been disappointed at that point they weathered the storm initially, not giving away wickets to Rabada and Vernon Philander in their first spell of the day, but lost their two overnight batsmen to Nortje and Pretorius, who are inexperienced at this level. 

With 218 runs more to win, Ben Stokes walked into the crease, which is exactly how much England needed against Australia at Headingley when the all-rounder came into bat and scored an unbeaten 135 to take England home by the narrowest of margins. Just like he did a few months ago, Stokes looked to absorb the pressure initially. 

England went to lunch with 205 more runs to get. They would have been confident given Root and Stokes were at the crease, with Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow to follow. 

Stokes’ stay came to an end when Keshav Maharaj got one to spin viciously into the him and knock over his off stump for a patient 55-ball 14. It was going to be a crucial innings for Bairstow, who averaged under 20 this year going into bat. With Root well set at the other end, he could afford to take his time to get settled and play second fiddle to his captain. His poor 2019 turned from bad to worse when Rabada struck off the very first delivery after taking the second new ball, as Bairstow edged one to gully for just nine. 

Root (48), Sam Curran (9) and Jofra Archer (4) were all back in the pavilion in the next 11 overs. It was just a matter of time to knock over the remaining two wickets and it was Rabada who got rid of Jos Buttler (22) and Stuart Broad (6) in quick succession to hand South Africa a win. 

Earlier in the match, Quinton de Kock starred with the bat for the hosts with a counter-attacking 95 to take his side to a competitive 284. With the ball it was Vernon Phlander – playing his final series – who proved why he is one of the best, picking up 4 for 16 to restrict England to 181, thereby handing South Africa a 103-run lead. England in their first innings were comfortably placed at 142 for 3, but lost their remaining wickets for just 39 runs.

With a significantly big lead, South Africa added 272 more runs in their second innings, thanks to a fifty from the debutant Rassie van der Dussen, who became the first player to score a half-century on debut in all three formats. But after a lukewarm performance in the first innings, Jofra Archer roared back with a five-wicket haul in the second innings. 

To go with his 95 in the first innings, de Kock scored 34 at crucial junctures and also pouched eight catches in the match.

With this win, South Africa are finally off the mark in the World Test Championship (WTC) securing 30 points. The Graeme Smith-led administration is off to the perfect start.

Brief scores:

South Africa 284 (Quinton de Kock 95, Zubayr Hamza 39; Sam Curran 4 for 58, Stuart Broad 4 for 58) & 272 (Rassie van der Dussen 51, Vernon Philander 46; Jofra Archer 5 for 102, Ben Stokes 2 for 22) beat England 181 (Joe Denly 50, Ben Stokes 35; Vernon Philander 4 for 16, Kagiso Rabada 3 for 68) & 268 (Rory Burns 84, Joe Root 48; Kagiso Rabada 4 for 103, Anrich Nortje 3 for 56) by 107 runs

Player of the match: Quinton de Kock

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